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December 12, 2007

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An 18-Year Bear Hunt

A couple of blogs ago, I listed the most important quality of a hunter as patience. I should also add persistence. This was illustrated on a last week hunt with Melvin Forbes, who builds New Ultra Light Rifles in West (by God) Virginia. I've hunted whitetails with Melvin just about every year since 1986 on a couple of thousand acres of hills and hollers, home to the haint and the abagoochee.

Melvin is pure death on whitetails. He knows every foot of that ground and how the deer move on it. In addition, he sees deer better than anyone I know. In 1989, the first black bear showed up on this piece of real estate, and as black bears are wont to do, raised hell with the beehives, and the blinds, and the fawns, and just about everything else. Melvin decided to teach the bears some manners, but black bears don't fancy collisions with bullets, and go to great lengths to avoid them. 

So, for 18 years, Melvin compiled information on the local black bears--when they showed, up, where, what they were doing at the time--it all went into the hopper. Over the years he got to know more and more about them, and this year, he had them figured out.

There were three of us hunting, and he stationed us so that the bear would surely pass by one of us. On Monday evening, December 3, no one saw anything, but Melvin had a premonition. He knew--knew--that the bear was going to come up the ridge toward him. He could see it as clearly as if it were happening.

And the next morning, at 7:30, I heard two fast shots from where Melvin was waiting and I knew he had a bear. Melvin does not shoot twice at whitetails. It had come chugging up the ridge exactly as he had foreseen it, and he killed it on the exact spot he had envisioned. It was a fine boar, about 240 pounds.

This, friends, is what's known as hunting.


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Great story. This is the epitomy of what hunting is.


Hey G.

I agree, wish I had that much patience!


Dr. Ralph

I've got the patience, now all I need is a couple thousand acres... and Dave were you carrying that NULA .338?


great story! and thank you for writing out our state's name correctly! :)



Its a very well told story, but taking 18 years to learn about the habits of bears is a little excessive. I'd be more receiving of an article titled, "Five Year Bear Hunt."

The prediction was dead on. The story definitely feeds the hunting infatuation.


Wish I had the money, land, and time to do that. Good for him, and God Bless anyone who can do that...


Nice story. And we in Virginia don't hold WV's secession against ya. We don't like Abagoochees, anyway.


heck it takes us less the 18 years to get bears where i come from. Five shot in one corn field in an afternoon is pretty good. I admire a man who is that persistant and does his homework correctly.


I commend Mr. Forbes on his stoic perseverance.

In Arkansas, I figured the bears out in about 2 months. Find out where the White River fisherman were cleaning their catch, scout the approaches that offered sufficent cover, set up. From a half-mile out they generally funnled into one of three "hollers" on their way to dinner.

Bears are quite the opportunists.

Steve C

Persistence would have been hunting the same way for the last 18 years.

Studying bears for 18 years so you know their habits is education. Killing the bear was using that education.

Ralph the Rifleman

Your friend studied the local black bear habits for 18 years? What does this man do for a living?


A little off subject here, but anyway. Does baiting black bear and shooting one over it appeal to anyone here. I see idiots on t.v. whooping and hollering about a 200lb. black bear they shot over a box of donuts all the time. Dosn't seem like much of a hunt to me. Anyone agree?

Chad Love

I for one have no interest in shooting a bear as he's snacking on a day-old Krispy Kreme, but I know absolutely nothing about bear hunting.
My dad lives in Montana, he's a bear hunter and every bear he's shot has been a spot-and-stalk situation.
No buckets of moldering confectionary delights needed.
Help me out Big Sky residents, but I believe baiting is illegal there, correct or no?


Mr Forbes is a very gifted fellow. It’s something to become “one” with your quarry via skill and craft. The story reminded me of the books I read by Jim Corbett on his hunting those man-eaters in India.

Baitng Bears. Ontario allows shooting bears over bait. I hunted Montana too long ago to accurately recall what the reg's were for bear hunting.

FYI--I do remember my Montana tags also had a grizzly tag. I believe in the early '80's Montana allowed nine-grizzilies to be [email protected]

Mike Strehlow



Dont hold me to it but I think most places they bait are really thick with under brush and it is the only viable way to hunt them.

Dr. Ralph

I just don't see bait as a viable way to hunt anything. It sounds like Melvin builds rifles and hunts right...


Great story! I believe that the time indicated shows a dedication and perseverance few possess. I have made it a study of mine for some years to plot the deer activity on my place, but I've not waited that long to start taking them!

And as for baiting, I'd like to pose this to you: Are food plots baiting? Are they not putting food out in an attempt to draw desired game to the area? Isn't that the same thing as baiting or using feeders or water tanks(systems)? I use food plots and a couple water tanks(systems) to provide for the deer that want to call my place home.

Dave in St Pete

Baiting...Do you put a worm on your hook?

Richard Cephalic

I've been reading way to many posts where others are way to critical of fellow hunters way of doing things. When did we get so self righteous? In my new state you can shoot deer with 22 caliber centerfires, where I came from you can't. My buddy tells me you can't kill a deer with them yet the two I shot with my 223 apparently didn't read the ballisic chart and tipped right over from a lung shot. The farthest I've ever had a deer run after using them as a bullet stop was 150 yards and that was a small doe shot with 180 grain partition out of a 300 win mag. A man who took 18 years to get a bear? I bet there was 18 years of hunts with no dead bear and lessons learned, not 18 years of patterning one beast! Case in point, it weighed 240 pounds. If you need an explanation, pass my retort and go complain about me! Those critical of hunters killing critters over bait....are you decendants of Hippocrates? I guess you never killed an animal while it was satisfying a natural urge be it food, sex or sleep? Those of you criticizing the newest cartridges, camo, scent and other technologies! Take a look at yourself in the mirror! That 30-06, 308, 270, 30-30 etc are all new and improved over a previous item. They've just been around a while and there's familiarity. Smokeless powder is a another somewhat new invention in the last 100ish years yet I haven't heard one remark chastizing this over hunting the "right way" with black powder! It's just taken for granted just like the new hunter does when he/she goes into the store to get set up. Think a GPS is too techy? Ask Yooper Jack what happens to his compass (which by the way, compass's used to be a new gadget themselves) when he gets near the iron ore deposits? Not an issue though with a gps except maybe the canopy being too thick to get a reading so now the compass that won't point north lets you down, the too techy gps lets you down, there's cloud cover so now what? Oh yeah! There's that new feature on some gps units called "sirf" that can read through the canopy and still get you home or to your stand in the pitch black. The way a hunter hunts and the gear a hunter chooses is no more or less "the right way" just because you choose to do it different. Stop being so self righteous and pompous and enjoy your way and enjoy the passion others have for their way. My only disclaimer to this is that "the chosen way" must be legal in the area the tactic is being used. Hunting is supposed to be fun with many great reasons to do it. Enjoy it while you can!

PS...if I pissed you off with my comments? Good! I hope you lose sleep over it because I won't! I'll be going to bed to get up early, I have to take my dogs pheasant hunting tomorrow and myself turkey hunting and I'm going to crack one with a 223wssm...because I can and because they taste good wrapped in bacon!


I grew up in West Virginia and I can't say that I know what a haint or abagoochee is. Can someone please enlighten me?

I have to agree, baiting does not exactly do much for the image of hunters.


Cheers Richard!


Hey Dave,

Why do you hardly EVER reply to comments...starting to hurt my feelings a wee bit.

And Richard Cephalic: Amen to all of that!! United We Stand, Divided We Fall!! But you missed mentioning the crossbow debate...what the hell is wrong with people that they would have a problem with that?? I guns that can shoot 1,000 + yards are legal, then why the hell not a crossbow? Maybe a separate season, fine, but no reason in the world for them to be illegal or looked down upon! And I am in NY, so it's not as if I use one anyway. I said it before, and I'll say it again...UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL!!!


*WE* got so righteous when our world improved to where pot hunting wasn’t necessary and allowed hunters to expand upon Sportsmanship.

Obviously some people don’t follow this thought pattern and is why fenced 40-acre game farms offering a person a chance to *hunt and shoot* a deer that’s been fed like a domestic steer are multiplying.

Black Rifle Addict

Hey Fellers...
Hunting to me is like a religion;We can share a general believe in our sport and still debate the princibles of it.
We can question the validity of a hunting practice for the sake of argument, but if the anti's make a move at us-LOOK OUT! We can, and will, band togather against them in large numbers!
I may not agree with your method, but I will defend your right to practice it.

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